Our democracy is under attack
The Turnbull Government has put forward three bills to Parliament that, if passed, would tie charities like us up in a fiendishly complex maze of administration and regulation, all of which would suffocate our movement’s ability to fight for change.
Charities and non-for-profit are fighting back. Please support us by contacting your local MP and ask them to vote down the bills.
This is our submission to the inquiry into the electoral legislation amendment Bill 2017.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission in relation to the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017.
TEC was established in 1972 and has been a bipartisan participant in seeking environment protection across urban and natural environment areas – part of the broader environment movement that has assisted conservation of our natural heritage; improving the urban living conditions of millions of people; and creating and expanding significant new industries (such as tourism, pollution control, land restoration and renewables) and thousands of jobs.
We like many other citizen groups have fully adhered to the required charity obligations, which as the Committee will know have been clarified to prevent political partisanship. The introduction of this new Bill has the effect of ripping apart the democratic mosaic produced by the widespread understanding of the role and advocacy rights of thousands of community groups – large and small.
The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 is fundamentally flawed, and will result in highly perverse outcomes, including a reduction in the stated intent of the bill to ‘improve the integrity and fairness (real and perceived) of Australia’s electoral system’ of healthy democracy.
The Bill seeks to redefine non-partisan, independent, issues based advocacy as ‘political’ campaigning. In addition to this it subjects advocacy groups to restrictions in the Electoral Act designed and intended (and appropriate) for those political parties that gain far greater access to power via elections than advocacy groups.
In particular, TEC objects to:
* Recasting issues-based advocacy as ‘political expenditure’
* Advocacy conflated with partisan political activity
* Broad and ambiguous classification of ‘political expenditure’ (s287(1) and s314AEB).
* Creation of new classes of ‘political campaigner’ and ‘third-party campaigner’, and expansion of definition of ‘associated entity’
* Requirement for charities to register as ‘political campaigners’ or ‘third-party campaigners’
* New ‘associated entity’ provisions
* Increased reporting and compliance burden
* Restricting international philanthropy
Issues-based advocacy is categorically different to partisan, political work and TEC strongly opposes the proposed redefinitions of ‘political expenditure’ outlined in s287(1) and s314AEB. 19. They seek to classify the full spectrum of public comment, policy assessment and advocacy work carried out by charities as ‘political campaigning’. The definition of ‘political expenditure’ under the proposed amendments blurs the lines between legitimate and lawful advocacy relating to charitable purpose, and partisan political activity.
The bill should be completely rewritten to avoid creating unnecessary damage to the ability of charities and advocacy organisations to continue the crucial work they undertake contributing to the environmental sustainability, fairness and democratic health of our society.
Executive Director7 March 2018